I often look back on my life and wonder just how poor we might have been. We lived with our grandparents for a while when my parents ventured out to Ohio to find work. That must have been a difficult time or my grandparents financially, but we never knew it, we always had a garden to rely on for food. We did not have meat at every meal, but on Sunday it seemed there was always a feast.
We did not have an abundance of toys. We often received several gifts at Christmas, but I do not recall many birthday gifts if any. Birthdays were always celebrated – first with either being awakened by someone greasing your nose with butter or blackened with soot from the fireplace. We all got birthday ‘spankings’ which did not hurt and were more celebratory – one for every year of your life and of course – one more ‘to grow on’ (that one always stung a little!)
Instead, being outside and exploring nature was how we occupied our time. I have written about growing up near the creek which you can read here. I found the most fascinating things in and around the creek bed. This is how I came to collect small shards of glass.
There is something quite beautiful about a piece of glass that has tumbled over the rocks so the edges are rounded and smooth. I suppose this is why sea glass is so treasured among jewelry designers. The glass pieces pulled from the creeks were often recognizable pieces of a distant person’s life.
Pop bottles (soda bottles) were a very common find and did not interest me much. It was not unusual to find the top or bottom of a bottle (they were thicker) but the most interesting was when you found the side of the bottle with the brand name intact.
My favorite pieces were small pieces of someone’s china (not that country people had china – let’s just say dishes.) A small edge of a plate with a delicate flower, or a tea cup handle with a hint of gold paint. I could weave countless stories about how these delicate objects found their way into the creek.
My glass shards were stored in the cardboard box my Barbie came in. I only kept the smooth tumbled pieces that spoke to me of another place and another life. Of all my childhood possessions, this is the one thing I miss the most.
Did you have a special object as a child you wish you still had?
I love to share the stories about growing up country. It was a different life then, a sheltered life I guess. It is such a dichotomy to live so sheltered yet have so much freedom. When I say we were sheltered, I mean we knew nothing about the horrors of the world. News was at 6:00 P.M. and 11:00 P.M. and Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite were trusted to bring the truth to American households. Was that true? I am honestly not sure. We each decide that for ourselves.
We were spared the news. Ours was a life of simplicity and exploration, not to be tainted by the reality of man’s potential to be horrible and hate-filled. We believed in good.
The creek was part of the livelihood of growing up country. The creek seemed to be the fastest, although not the easiest, way to get from one place to another. It was not unusual to either wade into the creek, tennis shoes tossed across our shoulders, or to jump the rocks from one side to another. We had to be wary of the moss that sometimes covered the submerged rocks — it was slick and the reason for many an unplanned fall into the creek. Especially for our cousins visiting from out of state.
On days when we were had nothing else to do (we NEVER used the term bored), we would go to the creek.
Skipping rocks was a favorite pastime. Our creek-beds and creek-banks were covered with smooth rocks tumbled over and over as the water ran from mountaintop to basin. It was not challenging to find a smooth flat rock, but finding the perfect fit for your hand was worth some extra looking. My Dad and my brother were excellent rock skippers. I can close my eyes and still see the rocks rising and falling into the water again and again.
Then of course, we loved to catch crawl-dads. There is an art to that process. Always good to have an old tin can with the lid removed. Since crawl-dads flee backwards, putting the can behind them, then placing the stick in front of them would cause the crawl-dad to scurry backwards into the can. There was always the BIG rock that housed the HUGE crawl-dad that only the most fearless child would even attempt to catch. Most of the time we let them go, other times if the size was right, we saved them for bait. We always loved to find a nest of babies to hold for a moment because they tickled when they attempted to pinch you. The pinch of an adult was another story all together.
The creeks were full of treasures. I had quite a collection of smooth glass I gathered over the years. Old broken china, broken pop bottles, and discarded jars. They were beautiful with all the sharp edges worn away from tumbling over the rocks on their journey downstream. It was so exciting to find a piece of glass with an unusual color or a delicate flower still intact on the surface.
I remember the water spiders (is this the same as a water strider?) skipping across the top of the water. The part of rock under the water was covered with periwinkles which we often pulled off, just to drop back into the water and drift to the bottom. Of course there were also water snakes (non poisonous) and something we called hog mollies (a type of sucker fish), which I was horribly afraid of. It was the fish of scary campfire stories.
Of course, fishing was a favorite pastime. As kids, we all had our first jerk poles. A jerk pole is a fishing pole (often a stick) with no reel and fishing line tied to the end. If the fish would bite, you had to jerk the pole to pull the fish out of the water. The first week of fishing season was always a big event. The women in the community made bbq and chili and sold it to the hungry fishermen to raise money for either the chuch or the community club. My brother would go out in the evening and dig for nightcrawlers to use for bait. He was always an excellent fisherman and it was not at all unusual for him to sell a can of night crawlers to frustrated fishermen from away, who could not seem to catch anything with their fancy poles and shiny lures.
Our creeks were also where we learned to swim, where we were baptized and where we chilled our watermelons for summer picnics. The water was cold let me tell you, but the creeks were the very lifeblood of everything growing up country.
I always came home on time, though. My grandfather told us if a snapping turtle got us, he would not let go until daylight. That was enough of a possibility I had no trouble coming home in time for dinner and bedtime. I guess a little healthy fear never hurt us and kept us out of harm’s way.